F1 Today – 22/01/2021

News & Analysis

Domenicali sets out his vision for future

F1’s new CEO and Chairman Stefano Domenicali has outlined his goals and vision for the future of F1 in an interview with Sky Sports he insisted that an “incredible” group of drivers “will be at the centre” of the sport’s future.

The former Ferrari and Lamborghini boss took up the position at the start of the month and in the interview, he explained that he was so excited about leading F1 into a new era.

the Italian, who spoke of hopes of travelling to new venues, and attracting new manufacturers, among a range of topics in a wide-ranging chat. Saying, “It is time to talk really seriously positive about who we are and what we are offering – there are great opportunities.”

One of Domenicali’s key aims is to put the focus back on the drivers, as Fernando Alonso returns to the sport and Lewis Hamilton goes for his eighth world title. As well as the next generation of drivers, Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris and George Russell.

He says the drivers “will be at the centre of the future of Formula One. I think that they represent the real soul of our sport – their faces, their ability. I would say to interpret them, not only as drivers but as the ambassadors of our sport. They will be crucial for the future.”

Domenicali believes that in the last decade the sport didn’t have so many good drivers as now, with the younger drivers having Hamilton’s “incredible” record to challenge for.

F1’s new CEO also enthused about the sport’s teams – heralding “iconic brand” Aston Martin’s return as “great news” while also discussing Mercedes’ wish to stay, and his former outfit Ferrari’s push to return to the top.

Other topics Sky will release in the coming days include Hamilton’s future as the sports ‘protagonist’, hopes of new manufacturers entering F1, the 2022 regulations.

But top of his priorities is navigating through the Coronavirus pandemic, already a revised 2021 calendar. Speaking about future changes, apart from already the revised calendar, he says there were no changes to report yet, but F1 – who have yet to confirm which race will take the ‘TBC’ slot on May 2 – do have “alternatives” in mind amid the Covid-19 pandemic and will need to be “flexible” this year.

He says for the first time that races may need to be continued to be held behind closed doors this year, but the aim was to get fans back as soon as possible. Adding “This is what we know today, but we know how the pandemic has evolved so we need to be ready for a flexible approach on the season.”


Red Bull aggress deal to take over Honda’s

Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko says the team has agreed a deal continue using Honda’s power unit after the Japanese manufacturer leaves Formula One next year, but it depends on a vote to freeze engine development.

Honda announced in October that it would withdraw from the sport at the end of the year. That has prompted Red Bull’s interest in taking over Honda’s intellectual property of the Honda engine rather than become a customer of another manufacturer.

Marko told Auto Motor und Sport, “Everything has been settled between us. The timing is there. But there is only an OK when we have written proof from the FIA ​​that the development stop on the engine side is coming.”

“We are waiting for the FIA’s decision,” the Austrian added, who said the situation should be clarified by an e-vote of the FIA’s F1 commission sometime next week.”

The current V6 turbo hybrid power units are due to be replaced by 2026 with cheaper and simpler power units. However, getting Ferrari to agree is seen as the biggest challenge.

Renault would otherwise be obliged to provide engines to Red Bull as the manufacturer supplying fewest teams at present. Mercedes has four teams using their power units and Ferrari three.


Red Bull not blackmailing over engine regulations

Red Bull’s Motorsport adviser Helmut Marko says that the stance on the proposed 2022 engine freeze is not a case of “blackmail.” The Austrian has confirmed that a deal has now been agreed for Honda to continue to supply the two F1 teams in 2022 and beyond.

However, the agreement will only happen if Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault/Alpine agree to a power unit development freeze is introduced.  Marko stressed that if it doesn’t happen, the energy drink company will “drastically rethink its F1 situation”.

Honda announced in October that it was withdrawing and stopping its official involvement in the sport at the end of 2021, in order to switch its resources to new road car technologies.

With Renault, the only other obvious alternative, Red Bull’s management pursued discussions about retaining and rebadging Honda’s power units in 2022. Red Bull has made it clear its priority is securing the engine freeze so it doesn’t incur the cost of the normal development while this engine regulation remains in place.

A development freeze from 2022, which would also allow all the manufacturers to switch focus to the yet-to-be-finalised new rules, has been under discussion over the past four months.

Mercedes have indicated its support for such a move, but Ferrari and Renault have been opposed, amid discussions on how all four power units could fairly be aligned under a freeze.

Marko told Auto Motor und Sport, “Everything has been clarified between us. The timing is fixed. Everyone is in the starting blocks. But there won’t be an okay until we have written proof from the FIA that the development stop on the engine side is coming.”

“We have a cost cap. We are discussing a restriction and reduction in driver salaries. Only with the engines, everything is to remain further open. What’s more, the trend is clearly for the new engine regulations to be brought forward to 2025. Unfortunately, this engine was such a cost driver. Investing even more in it now makes no sense.”

He says it’s a very common-sense decision for F1 and the engine freeze was the most important thing.  Marko made it clear that if the Honda deal doesn’t happen, the futures of Red Bull Racing and Alpha Tauri could be in doubt.

He added, “That would mean Red Bull would have to drastically rethink its F1 situation. This is not a blackmail.”


Button returns to Williams as an advisor

Jenson Button is to return to Williams after signing a multi-year agreement with the team as a senior advisor. The 2009 champion made his debut with the team he made his debut with in 2000 and will continue in his role as an analyst for Sky Sports

Button will give guidance and attend a number of races with the team, as well as working with their race drivers, George Russell and Nicholas Latifi, and academy drivers.

Button told Sky Sports “I’ve really enjoyed getting back into F1 [with Sky], seeing it change over the last few years, so this felt like the perfect moment to re-join Williams – a team that gave me so many opportunities.”

“When I started my career in F1, they gave me the drive, they nurtured me through that year and it really was a special year for me. So this feels like the right time to re-join the team and I’m excited to work with them to help this team back to the front.”

Williams has had significant changes in recent months following the sale of the team to the US investment firm Dorilton Capital. They aim to move the British team up the grid, the new CEO Jost Capito has already expanded the team’s technical relationship with world champions Mercedes.

Button said, “I think there’s a sense of optimism, there’s a lot changes and I think a lot of positive changes for the future. Things don’t change overnight but I think they’re on the right trajectory at the moment.”

He believes coming back after working with seven different teams he can be an outsider looking in to see what can be improved and was looking forward to a new challenge.


Verstappen’s use of “Mongol” is changing the dictionary

Max Verstappen’s radio slurs at the Portuguese Grand Prix have been cited in a charity’s campaign for improved dictionary definitions for the word “Mongol”.

During FP2 in Portimao, the Dutchman made contact with Lance Stroll at Turn One before labelling the Canadian a “retard” and a “Mongol” over the radio. Verstappen’s comments were heavily criticised, and the charity Mongol Identity sought an apology from the Dutch driver over his radio comments.

Although Verstappen later said he “didn’t mean to offend anyone”, various groups demanded a full apology from him, including Lundeg Purevsuren, Mongolia’s Ambassador to the UN.

Purevsuren also wrote to the FIA about Verstappen’s comments which he called “racist and derogatory” language and sought for the FIA to take a firmer stance against his language.

A statement from Mongol Identity said “Verstappen caused uproar when he called a rival a ‘Mongol’,” said a statement from Mongol Identity. The social media response which followed showed that many had no idea why this use of the word Mongol was offensive and saw it merely as interchangeable for ‘idiot’.

“There was little recognition that using the term as an insult is both deeply racist and discriminatory.”

In the dictionary, its often used to describe ‘someone who is stupid or someone who has Down’s Syndrome.’ The group aims to improve the definition of Mongol to be used to describe people of ethnic Mongolian heritage.

Following the first descriptions of Down’s Syndrome by John Langdon Down, he initially published a paper entitled “Observations of an Ethnic Classification of Idiots”, and later coined the term “Mongoloidism” for people affected.

That theory is considered offensive, the basis of the theory was that people with Downs had similar physical features to those of East Asian ethnicity, this was before the cause of the condition an extra chromosome was identified.


Alfa Romeo confirm Warsaw launch

Alfa Romeo has become the first team to announce their plans for launching there 2021 car the C41 at an event in Warsaw on Monday 22nd February. The choice of the Polish capital is because the teams title sponsor Orlen.

The team said it would issue further details on “the exact time and venue of the unveiling closer to the date”. It is the first fixed date for an F1 car launch this year, with a flurry of events set to be scheduled in the lead-up to the start of pre-season testing in Bahrain on March 12.

However, launches are expected to be toned down and limited this year due to the pandemic. In recent years as well, many teams have switched to online launches before rolling out the car in the pit lane the day before or on the first day of testing.

Ferrari has teased an unveiling of its new car, the SF21, in the lead-up to pre-season testing, while Aston Martin is also expected to present its first model since taking over the Racing Point project in March.

The rebranded Alpine team will unveil its A521 car at an event in February, but has not set a precise date yet.

The naming of the Alfa Romeo C41 car would appear out of sequence, given the team raced with a C39 in 2020, but it follows a similar design approach to that of power unit supplier Ferrari.

Due to the pandemic, the 2020 cars have largely been carried over after teams agreed to delay the new technical regulations by one year. Ferrari has followed a similar approach, referring to its 2021 car as project 673, while its 2022 car is known as project 672.

Other teams like Red Bull have named their cars with the 2020 name and the letter B.


The week ahead

F1 Commission is due to meet soon and high on the agenda will be the impact of the coronavirus and the regulation changes. Ferrari is pushing against this but there are also discussions about further financial control and the engine freeze Red Bull want. The question is can Stefano Domenicali use his influence to meet Ferrari half way, this a key test in his first 100 days.

I think we are in a position unless there are major changes in the pandemic we are on course for a start in Bahrain. But we know this season is going to be one where we need to be cautious and be prepared for changes to the calendar.

The other thing we are keeping at the back of our minds is Lewis Hamilton’s contract, its heading towards February but I think we need to just wait. If we don’t hear anything by March, I think that’s when we need to start to worry, but the feeling is that the deal will be done.

We are starting to get an idea of the ‘road to Bahrain’, with when teams are launching but I think most of them will not have big grand launches and opt for pit lane rollouts on the Thursday before the testing weekend in March.

Those drivers who have switched teams this year are beginning to give interviews these I think tell us the goals and personal ambitions that drivers have with their new teams.

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